Wednesday, July 23, 2008

LTE's Crazy Historical Facts: The origin of the saying ''When the shit hits the fan'' (and further variations)

LTE's Crazy Historical Facts: The origin of the saying ''When the shit hits the fan'' (and further variations)

The often uncredited inventor of one of the first working mechanical fans was Armenian engineer Eldar Zadian. Little did he know that his 1841 instrument would be the origin of the crass terms ''when the shit hits the fan'' and ''the shit's gonna hit the fan''. In the Armenian wars over the Dojekhstani border, General Portnoy Mintolbahn was known as ''Schitenstribolt'' or the shit-fanner.

General Mintolbahn was known primarily for a method of torture whereby he would utilize his fellow Armenian's mechanical fan and the manure collected from local peasant farms. The fan would run during interrogations, punishments, etc. When the torture was to be doled out, whether for more information or because the General suspected a lie or simply as a routine penalty, the feces of various animals, sometimes humans would be dropped onto the fan propelling the ''ammunition'' all over the victim.

It was not a torture for precision as others in the room were splattered by the feces which often had maggots. They wore protective garb, except for the General who would leave the room. The General stands as a fairly unique historical figure. It is said that he was born without a sense of smell and didn't mind the scent of dung. Regardless, a saying resulted from his actions. It came into minor use in Armenia around this time (First noted in 1846). Whenever there was trouble, the ''shit had hit the fan'' or would soon enough. It was a saying that started among General Mintolbahn's subordinates but rapidly spread through Armenia and greater Europe, translating into hundreds of languages and dialects.

Austrian historian and etymologist Arnold Schpreddim says that the saying was brought to America by (illegal) Austrian immigrants sometime in the roaring 1920's and though America crushed illegal immigration from Austria successfully with their ''No more'' policy, it was too late to keep a good saying down. Besides, if it weren't for the Austrians, we all know the Albanians, Swedish and of course Armenians immigrating into the states would have gotten the job done.

*Remember: The next time you use this phrase, you will know that a crap-load of Armenians once meant it literally.

1. America's Sayings Didn't Just Happen! By Russell Sultrick
2. Chestnuts, Epigrams and Bears-Oh my! - an article issued in the Etymology Glue Magazine by Werner von Cruz.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sorry... I call bullshit